September 22, 1862: Lincoln Issues Notice of Emancipation Proclamation

Saturday, September 22, AD 2012

Something for the weekend.  Give us a Flag, the unofficial anthem of the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War, written by a private serving in the 54th Massachusetts.

Today is the 150th anniversary of the issuance of the notice by Lincoln of the Emancipation Proclamation, to take effect on January 1, 1863, Lincoln doing so after the Union victory at Antietam on September 17, 1862.  Reaction was, to say the least, mixed.  In the North the abolitionists were enraptured.  Most Northern opinion was favorable, although there was a substantial minority, embodied almost entirely in the Democrat party, that completely opposed this move.  Opinion in the Border States was resoundingly negative.  In the Confederacy the Confederate government denounced the proposed Emancipation Proclamation as a call for a race war.  Today, almost all Americans view the Emancipation Proclamation as a long overdue ending of slavery.  At the time it was very much a step into the unknown, and the consequences impossible to determine.  Lincoln had converted the War for the Union into a War for the Union and against Slavery.  It remained to be seen as to whether the War, whatever its objectives, could be won.  Here is the text of Lincoln’s announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation:

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7 Responses to September 22, 1862: Lincoln Issues Notice of Emancipation Proclamation

  • Replace “slave” with “Catholic taxpayer”, “religious believer” and “Catholic Church” and teach respect for freedom.

  • Reaction to the proclamation remains mixed even today, because from a practical, on the ground standpoint, it didn’t free ANY slaves, at least not immediately. It didn’t apply to border slave states still loyal to the Union, nor (in its final form) to Union-occupied areas of the Confederate states. The only areas that it applied to were areas where it wasn’t going to be enforced immediately. Some abolitionists were disappointed in it for that reason. It was a carefully crafted political move — but still a brilliant one. Also, what happened to the part about compensating slave owners who remained loyal to the Union?

  • Lincoln tried for compensated emancipation throughout the War in loyal slave states like Delaware and Kentucky and in offers to the Confederates in exchange for peace and Union. The slaveholders were never interested. By the end of the War slavery was dead, and after all the blood and treasure expended to accomplish that feat, Congress was in no mood to give to slaveowners what they had rejected during the war.

    Lincoln limited the Emancipation Proclamation to areas under Confederate control for several reasons. First, he believed he had no authority to abolish slavery except as a war measure. That is why he successfully pushed for the thirteenth amendment abolishing slavery. Second, he did not wish to alienate the loyal slave states.

    In regard to the Emancipation Proclamation it gave Union military commanders in Confederate areas the authority to abolish slavery, something a few of them had already attempted. Wherever the Union armies established control slavery ended. The Confederates understood this, which is why they reacted with such outrage to the Proclamation,

  • It was another in a string of unconstitutional acts by Lincoln. Just because we might like the object of the abuse of power does not make the abuse of power legitimate.

    And yes of course it was an entirely cynical ploy by Lincoln to buttress up flagging support for the war by throwing a moral patina on the business that “preserving the glorious union” did not have.

    Lincoln’s person view was expressed early on when he verified that the war was not about slavery and that he would use that issue only insofar as it would aid in his effort forcibly to unite the country, but that he had no interest in slavery per se as a war aim. After Antietam, to buck up failing domestic support and to ensure non-intervention by European powers, he made the calculated decision that he could indeed use the issue of slavery to advance what he considered the only aim of the war–reunion.

  • Wrong on all points Tom:
    “It was another in a string of unconstitutional acts by Lincoln”

    1. There is nothing unconstitutional about confiscating property in war time that is being used to support the enemy war effort. Slave labor was crucial for the Confederacy. The Confederates contended that slaves were property. Lincoln took them at their word and freed their “property”.

    “to buttress up flagging support for the war by throwing a moral patina on the business that “preserving the glorious union” did not have.”
    2. Incorrect Tom. Support for war for the Union was almost universal in the North except among Copperheads. In the border states it commanded at least 50% support. In the Confederacy support for war for the Union was quite popular in certain regions, especially West Virginia and East Tennessee. Lincoln was taking a big gamble in adding the war aim of the abolition of slavery.

    “Lincoln’s person view was expressed early on when he verified that the war was not about slavery and that he would use that issue only insofar as it would aid in his effort forcibly to unite the country, but that he had no interest in slavery per se as a war aim.”

    Lincoln’s personal view was always that slavery must be abolished. He separated that from his prime duty as President which was to uphold the Union. He expressed this well in his letter to Horace Greeley:

    “Washington, August 22, 1862.

    Hon. Horace Greeley:
    Dear Sir.

    I have just read yours of the 19th. addressed to myself through the New-York Tribune. If there be in it any statements, or assumptions of fact, which I may know to be erroneous, I do not, now and here, controvert them. If there be in it any inferences which I may believe to be falsely drawn, I do not now and here, argue against them. If there be perceptable in it an impatient and dictatorial tone, I waive it in deference to an old friend, whose heart I have always supposed to be right.

    As to the policy I “seem to be pursuing” as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt.

    I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be “the Union as it was.” If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.

    I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free.

    A. Lincoln.”

    Of course at the time that he wrote this Lincoln knew that he was going to Emancipate the slaves and was using this letter skillfully to help butress his argument that the abolition of slavery was necessary for the preservation of the Union

  • Oh, and this is also the 150th anniversary of that *other* unconstitutional act, suspension of habeas corpus, which Lincoln also perpetrated.

    Don, I know you love your fellow Illinois-an, but really. The Constitution is a document which gives the president only limited, *expressed* authority. Declaring the property of every owner in many states to be confiscated, whether or not that property is involved in war, is not a power granted to the president.

    Really, it’s very simple: if the constitution does not *expressly* grant the president a power, he does not have it. No constitutional provision permits the president to declare the property of people forfeited, particularly without any kind of due process.

  • “Oh, and this is also the 150th anniversary of that *other* unconstitutional act, suspension of habeas corpus, which Lincoln also perpetrated.”

    And the suspension of habeus corpus was reaffirmed by Congress when it met in December of 1862. The Constitution clearly allows for the suspension of habeas corpus in the event of invasion or rebellion. I would note that Jefferson Davis also suspended habeas corpus and declared martial law.

    Confiscation of property used against the United States in war time has been upheld time and again by the US Supreme Court. Congress ratified the action of the President by legislation and the country ratified the action of the President by approving the Thirteenth Amendment.

August 20, 1862: The Prayer of Twenty Millions

Monday, August 20, AD 2012



Half sage and half quack, Horace Greeley, who in 1841 founded the New York Tribune, was a power to be reckoned with in the United States one hundred and fifty years ago.  On August 20, 1862 he published in his paper an open letter, entitled The Prayer of Twenty Millions,  to President Lincoln demanding the abolition of slavery within the Union.

To ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States

DEAR SIR: I do not intrude to tell you–for you must know already–that a great proportion of those who triumphed in you election, and of all who desire the unqualified suppression of the Rebellion now desolating our country, are sorely disappointed and deeply pained by the policy you seem to be pursuing with regard to the slaves of the Rebels. I write only to set succinctly and unmistakably before you what we require, what we think we have a right to expect, and of what we complain.

I. We require of you, as the first servant of the Republic, charged especially and preeminently with this duty, that you EXECUTE THE LAWS. Most emphatically do we demand that such laws as have been recently enacted, which therefore may fairly be presumed to embody the present will and to be dictated by the present needs of the Republic, and which, after due consideration have received your personal sanction, shall by you be carried into full effect, and that you publicly and decisively instruct your subordinates that such laws exist, that they are binding on all functionaries and citizens, and that they are to be obeyed to the letter.

II. We think you are strangely and disastrously remiss in the discharge of your official and imperative duty with regard to the emancipating provisions of the new Confiscation Act. Those provisions were designed to fight Slavery with Liberty. They prescribe that men loyal to the Union, and willing to shed their blood in her behalf, shall no longer be held, with the Nations consent, in bondage to persistent, malignant traitors, who for twenty years have been plotting and for sixteen months have been fighting to divide and destroy our country. Why these traitors should be treated with tenderness by you, to the prejudice of the dearest rights of loyal men, We cannot conceive.

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12 Responses to August 20, 1862: The Prayer of Twenty Millions

  • I often walk through Greeley Park on the way to or from Penn Sta. There is a statue of the man (seated) in the park. The statue beard is a bit bigger.

    I agree. Greeley was being presumptuous in proposing to speak for 20,000,000. Of course, neither Greeley nor the MSM branch of the Committee to Re-elect Barry Soetoro invented hubris.

  • Why was Lincoln steadfast with saving the Union to the extent that all other moral concerns in front of the state were irrelevant?

    Kind of smacks of the end justifying the means doesn’t it?

  • Not at all. His duty as President was to preserve the Union. Lincoln had no power under the Constitution to do anything about slavery except as a war measure. Lincoln understood the difference between his personal opinions on slavery and the duties incumbent upon him as President of the United States.

  • But he doesn’t seen so circumscribed in his statements. He maintains he would take action in either direction if it would mean preservation of the Union. There seems to be a moral understanding that concern for the Union outweighs all other concerns.

    In other words he either subjugates his moral compass at the altar of the state or he maintains a moral outlook and decides the morally appropriate course of action is the preservation of Union because it is indeed the greater moral good. Is there another analysis?

  • Yes. His duty as President was to preserve the Union. It was not a matter of personal preference by him. Previous Presidents, including southerners such as Andrew Jackson and Zachary Taylor, had taken precisely the same view as Lincoln. Morally Lincoln thought slavery was evil and should be abolished, but doing so was not part of his duties as President as was the preservation of the Union. Lincoln was not a free agent as President but bound to carry out the duties of that office. The abolition of slavery could only be undertaken as a help to the preservation of the Union. I have no doubt that Linoln thought that preservation of the Union was morally good, but his duty to do so did not stem from that belief but rather from the office he held.

  • Paul D

    Because without the Union, there was no policy the Union could pursue.

  • What about his insistence that he would take the action necessary to maintain the Union whether it meant granting or not granting freedom to the slaves? This doesn’t appear to be mere literary device.

  • Thanks, Michael. Yes that would be the case. Is this conveyed elsewhere in Lincoln’s own writings?

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  • “This doesn’t appear to be mere literary device.”

    It wasn’t. Lincoln was stating that his goal was the preservation of the Union, and what he did about slavery was in furtherance of that goal. Lincoln had decided by the time that he wrote the letter that preserving the Union required the ending of slavery although he had not yet obtained the victory necessary to announce the Emancipation Proclamation. His personal preference to end slavery instantly had to take a back seat to his duty as President as he perceived that duty.

  • “Is this conveyed elsewhere in Lincoln’s own writings”

    Lincoln in his House Divided Speech of June 16, 1858 outlined his belief that if the Union was preserved slavery could be placed in the path of ultimate extinction:

    “In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed.

    “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

    I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.

    I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

    It will become all one thing or all the other.

    Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.”

  • Thank you, Don for providing those quotes and more reference/context.

July 22, 1862: Lincoln Advises Cabinet of Emancipation Proclamation

Sunday, July 22, AD 2012

One of the more momentous dates in American history.  On July 22, 1862, President Lincoln stuns his cabinet by showing them a preliminary draft of the Emancipation Proclamation.  Artist Francis Carpenter in February 1864 heard from Mr. Lincoln’s own lips about this cabinet meeting.  This was appropriate since Carpenter spent six months in the White House immortalizing the scene for future generations in his painting First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln which is at the bottom of this post.  Here is what Carpenter recalled Lincoln saying:

“It had got to be,” said he, “midsummer, 1862. Things had gone on from bad to worse, until I felt that we had reached the end of our rope on the plan of operations we had been pursuing; that we had about played our last card, and must change our tactics, or lose the game! I now determined upon the adoption of the emancipation policy; and, without consultation with, or the knowledge of the Cabinet, I prepared the original draft of the proclamation, and, after much anxious thought, called a Cabinet meeting upon the subject. This was the last of July, or the first part of the month of August, 1862.” (The exact date he did not remember.) “This Cabinet meeting took place, I think, upon a Saturday. All were present, excepting Mr. Blair, the Postmaster-General, who was absent at the opening of the discussion, but came in subsequently. I said to the Cabinet that I had resolved upon this step, and had not called them together to ask their advice, but to lay the subject-matter of a proclamation before them; suggestions as to which would be in order, after they had heard it read….. Various suggestions were offered. Secretary Chase wished the language stronger in reference to the arming of the blacks. Mr. Blair, after he came in, deprecated the policy, on the ground that it would cost the Administration in the fall elections. Nothing, however, was offered that I had not already fully anticipated and settled in my own mind, until Secretary Seward spoke. He said in substance: “Mr. President, I approve of the proclamation, but I question the expediency of its issue at this juncture. The depression of the public mind, consequent upon our repeated reverses, is so great that I fear the effect of so important a step. It may be viewed as the last measure of an exhausted government, a cry for help; the government stretching forth its hands to Ethiopia stretching forth her hands to the government.” His idea,” said the President, “was that it would be considered our last shriek, on the retreat.” (This was his precise expression.) “Now,’ continued Mr. Seward, ‘while I approve the measure, I suggest, sir, that you postpone its issue, until you can give it to the country supported by military success, instead of issuing it, as would be the case now, upon the greatest disasters of the war!'” Mr. Lincoln continued: “The wisdom of the view of the Secretary of State struck me with very great force. It was an aspect of the case that, in all my thought upon the subject, I had entirely overlooked. The result was that I put the draft of the proclamation aside, as you do your sketch for a picture, waiting for a victory.”

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